University of Sydney, 15/11/16

I’m presenting this at the University of Sydney. Assemblage theory. Sweet! You should come.

The policy assemblage: What does it mean, where does it get us?

In recent decades, education policy research has tended towards one or another of two poles, first that of research concerned with implementation and evaluation, and second that of critical policy sociology which has focused on the politics, discourses and enactment of policy within specific contexts. Recently new forms of policy research have begun to emerge as challenges to these poles that loosely coalesce around an idea of the organisation of elements, or parts, of policy. These include new ‘devices’ of policy and policy research, including the dispositif (Ball, 2012; 2015), topology (Thompson & Cook, 2015) and policy as assemblage (McCann & Ward, 2013). This presentation will explore the idea of policy assemblages that take their inspiration from the work of Deleuze and Guattari (2005). In particular, the presentation will look at what constitutes an assemblage, debates in assemblage theory and attempt an answer as to what the device of assemblage offers education policy research, and why it is worth pursuing as a method.


Ball, S. (2012). Foucault, power, and education. London: Routledge.

Ball, S. (2015). What is policy? 21 years later: reflections on the possibilities of policy research. Discourse: Studies in the cultural politics of education, 36(3), 306-313.

Deleuze, G., & Guattari, F. (2005). A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Minneapolis: The University of Minnesota Press.

McCann, E., & Ward, K. (2013). A multi-disciplinary approach to policy transfer research: geographies, assemblages, mobilities and mutations. Policy Studies, 34(1), 2-18.

Thompson, G., & Cook, I. (2015). Becoming-topologies of education: deformations, networks and the database effect. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 36(5), 732-748.


Biographic notes

Greg Thompson is Associate Professor at Queensland University of Technology (QUT). Prior to becoming an academic, he worked as a high school teacher in Western Australia for 13 years. He graduated with a PhD from Murdoch University in 2009. From 2010-2015 he worked in the School of Education at Murdoch, before taking up his position at QUT in July 2015. Thompson’s research focuses on educational theory, education policy, and the philosophy/sociology of education assessment and measurement with a particular emphasis on large-scale testing such as NAPLAN and PISA. Recent research projects include reconceptualising test validity, Instructional Rounds as Professional Learning, education policy and teachers’ perceptions of time and the impending impact of learning analytics/Big Data on schools. He is the Australasian Editor (with Stephen Ball) of The Journal of Education Policy and Associate Editor (with Bob Lingard) of Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education. He is also co-editor of two book series, Local/Global Issues in Education (Routledge) and Deleuze and Education Research (Edinburgh University Press).